The birds & the bees...

At last, at last it's becoming warmer and more early summer-like. I don't mind rain at all (especially when we are still in drought conditions here, with a hosepipe ban in force!) but the cold recently has been depressing. Usually, the central heating timer is switched to 'off' in April & doesn't go on again until October if we're lucky...but this year we still have the odd day when it feels essential!
Life has been so busy recently...lots of new things happening at work and home...and my dearest friend Susan Branch & her beloved Joe are in England right now on a working holiday as she writes her next book. They will be staying here with us soon, but I couldn't resist a little trip cross country to where they are staying in Kent last's so wonderful to have them here, and I feel I must make the most of it! Being able to visit is such a luxury...
Her own blog is such a delight & will tell you much more than I can here - if you don't already follow her then I highly recommend doing so!
On Monday we made the short trip to Sissinghurst...a glorious National Trust property and (more importantly to us) garden which is the former home of writers Vita Sackville-West & Harold Nicolson...oh, what a place!
Secret gardens...hidden places...

that make you feel as though you are the one who discovered them...
There is a tower there, where Vita wrote in an ancient room filled with books and photographs and history...the climb to the top is worth it for the spectacular views over the Estate...
you can see the conical white tops of the oast-houses in the background...a traditional Kentish structure where hops (for beer) are processed
All the plants & trees are amazing, tended by 9 full-time gardeners. These old fashioned house leeks are among my favourites...they remind me of my grandparents house when I was a child...
The huge and ancient open barn is home to many swallows at the moment - and I loved this blackboard, detailing the wildlife sightings over the past months...
I'm so glad that I finally got to see somewhere that I've heard so much lived up to all my expectations (and the company was wonderful too!)
We had a minor panic late last week, when our bees decided to swarm...
it's a scary sight! the air was full of a bee tornado for an hour or so, until they settled in a hanging mass on a bush in next door's garden. Bees are complex creatures. Being novices, we didn't spot a new queen cell in the brood...she hatched out and, as there is only room for one queen in any hive, the old one took the hint and left...taking half the colony with her. A lovely man from our local beekeepers association came to help Paul collect the swarm, which was fascinating...he took them away with him as he has a spare hive where they'll be safe. So now, we have a new young queen and a refreshed hive-full! Sean (the beekeeping man) was so interesting to talk to...and proved the fact that, where bees are concerned (and much else) you never stop learning!
Alice finally got her summer clip last week, too. We took a walk the next day, in our favourite wood...
the last of the bluebells were out (not a great year for them...due to the dry spring I think) and as we stood there, all we could hear was birdsong...
there's not much that sounds more beautiful than that, to me.
I hope you're enjoying your weekend...thanks so much for all your lovely comments and welcome to any new readers...especially Dawn, who paid me the huge compliment of commenting when she usually never does! I'm's so good to 'meet' all of you!


  1. oh such a glorious post! Your posts are always a pure delight to read.

    How fascinating-yet-scary about the swarm! I'd have been shut inside with doors and windows shut, probably crying! I don't mind wasps and bees, but I don't like the idea of a big old swarm of the blighters!

    How fabulous to have Susan Branch here and not far away! I've loved seeing the twitter snippets between the two of you (though I feel so nosy reading them!)

    have a lovely weekend. Feels a tad muggy here today.


  2. Hi Rachel what a lovely post! The gardens look beautiful and the last but one picture of your woods I thought could have been an oil painting! So glad you and Susan have the chance to spend some qualitity time together. My BFF lives in New England, she moved there about 14 years ago and I still miss her every day! When we meet up we have to live a whole years worth in a week or two! Hope the sun comes out for you both! Love Nina xx

  3. Oh what a joy to read your post. I am new to following and am being delightfully pulled into your wonderful corner of the world <3 and I'm loving every minute. How fun to have your BF here visiting!!! Ive been so enjoying Susan's tweets and blogs. Sometimes its as though she is right next door! Words can't describe the inner buzz of excitement when girlfriends get together face to face. Enjoy your day. Thanks for brightening mine! Georgie from NJ I don't have a blog so I'll have to put anonymous.

  4. Rachel, I'm so happy for you that you went to Sissinghurst. Is that where the white garden is?
    Must be beautiufl at night with a full moon......
    Very interesting about the bees; We were driving down a steep wooded street just yesterday and a swarm surrounded the car and the windows were down as its been warm! We quick rolled them up and no bees got in the car, now I know it may have been a new queen and her loyal subjects following her to a new home.
    I agree with you about birdsong. I've put a huge tray of seed out on the deck this spring, and we have so many doves now , among others . But the doves are a treat, love hearing thier wings flutter.

  5. Such lovely comments, they make me so happy! Julie - you are right, the white garden is at Sissinghurst...sadly it has been too cold for most of the flowers to bloom yet - but the white wisteria was just beginning. It covers the Priest's House in the corner of the can now rent this cottage through the National Trust! Maybe next time...xx

  6. Beautiful post am a new follower have been following Susan branch for about a year now love all her work have her books calendar and a set of pjs!! :) lovely that you have got to spend some time together and more to come while she is here she is staying up the road from me I was so excited to hear this I'm in Rolvenden I commented on her blog that I really need to get out more and see the local sights have never actually been to sissinghurst gardens even though I drive through there a lot must make it happen looks beautiful xx vicki

  7. Dawn from Minnesota19 May 2012 at 19:39

    Oh Rachel...I was reading along "Ooooo-ing"
    & "Aaaah-ing", enjoying your blog...and then I
    got to the end and "Whaaaaaaaa!!....that's me name is out in the World-of-Blog!" Haha!
    You made my morning..."Thank You!" It still
    makes me feel nervous when I "comment."
    Old Fashioned House Grandma had
    those, my Mom had those, and I have those !
    However, we call them "Hens & Chicks." Do you
    think they are the same thing or is it just
    a made-up name from Minnesota? They look alike to me !! Ya never know...we do say, "Uffda!" don't cha know !!! :)
    I am trying ever so hard to "WHOOOSH" some
    of our warm and windy SUNSHINE your way...
    temperatures in the 90's and Sun,SUn,SUN !!!
    When it does get there please think of me and
    know that I'm wishing you a Beautiful Day !!!
    Until next time...Take Care & Enjoy !!!
    XoX Dawn :}

  8. Hi Rachel--so glad to see all went well with your bees--so facinating--how brave you are to keep them--if we had more property I would love to!
    I know you are having fun with your friend Susan Branch. She is such a sweetheart and if you are her friend I know you are too! So nice you visited Sissinghurst with Susan and Joe. Have a lovely weekend my friend!
    Martha Ellen

  9. Lovely post! I've had an interest in bee keeping since I saw Brigit Strawbridge give a talk when I was in England 2 yrs ago. And I've added Sissinghurst to my list. :)

  10. Hi Rachel, I found my way to your blog from your tweet on Susan Branch's Twitter page. How did you come to know her? I'm sure she's glad that you've taken some of the load off her shoulders with your post about Sissinghurst. She seems to want to tell us EVERYTHING (and I want her to!), but to take the time away from actually experiencing her time there must be conflicting for her.

    So, thank you for your photos and commentary. Everything is wonderful. As for the day I heard this very ominous sound in my front yard up in the trees. I'd never seen such a thing before! It was a swarm of bees. Then a bunch of birds came out of nowhere swooping down through the yard crisscrossing the whole area. Fascinating!

    To Dawn in Minnesota, I live in Maryland, and we call them Hens and Chicks here, too.

    By the way, Alice is adorable!

  11. Good Morning Rachel Love Your Blog & Oh How I Love Your Post About You & Sweet Sue...Friendship is Pure's Been so Much Fun "Traveling" With Sue & Joe & You! Sue's "Tweets from The Twip" & Her Blog have been Scrumptious! Wishing You a Dazzling Day! xoxo Poof! Pixie~Dust Everywhere! ♥*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.♥*¨`*.✫*¨♥*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.♥

  12. I adore Sissinghurst, we have got National Trust membership and I am determined we will visit this year. I especially like the room in the tower with the writing desk!

  13. Of course you know I love seeing all the beautiful spots around you, especially that golden place that looks so magical. I'm happy to report that my own computer addict, BooBoo sat right here with me (as always) and watched your video--he loved hearing the birds almost as much as seeing Alice. But it makes me sad to think of the poor Queen Bee displaced by an upstart. In your part of the world such things are commonplace but here we don't put our old folks in a tower or out on an ice floe. I hope the Queen and her flock are now safe and happy. Sounds as though the life of a queen bee is short and filled with usurpers as is common among the royals. So glad you're having fun with Sue and Joe. Nothing's better than having beloved guests.

  14. Dearest Rachel,

    I'm so glad the weather is warming up for you! The gardens of Sissinghurst look absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your special day with us. The unexpected bee swarming must have been a scary sight. I'm glad all is good now and the bees are settling well with their new Queen! Happy Sunday, dearest! Alice looks adorable, by the way! xoxo

  15. Hi Rachel, I too, discovered your blog through following Susan Branch, you are soo wonderful as well, wish both of you could be close friends.......I was enthralled when I came upon your blog........thanks so much for all your sharing.....I think I will get a pen pal, as that is how you and Susan met.....what great luck......years ago a swarm of bees hovered off my back door, just as I brought myself and baby into the kitchen.....I will never forget that experience.....we just missed their arrival by seconds......xoxo and hugs to all! Ethel (from Staten Island, NY)

  16. Hi Rachel
    I am mostly just a reader of blogs, but I know that you bloggers like to know that your efforts are appreciated. I have been reading yours for awhile now having been tipped off by Susan Branch.
    It was nice to see you having fun with Joe and Susan on their holiday. I was in England about seven years ago, but I have hopes of returning one day. These beautiful posts make me want to get there sooner rather later.
    Keep up the good work.
    Best wishes from Canada.
    Susan M

  17. So fascinating and magical! I hope I can see it all some day. xoxo

  18. The birdsong that echo's in our own trees here in the garden as well as on local walks, is simply life enhancing. Your short video of the sounds in your own wooded walk is magic ..

  19. Dear Rachel,
    Love the photos of Sissinghurst, would love to visit there next time I get to England. Thanks for the birdsong.
    Hope you are enjoying the late spring days.

  20. Hi dear Rachel,

    WONDERFUL! I adore Sissinghurt. I always say it is my favorite, but in England there are SO MANY FAVORITES.

    Wish I could be there! Miss you,


  21. P.S. I can't see polka dots without thinking of YOU.

    Also, laughed when I read Sue's "beloved Joe." Well heck Rachel, to anyone who knows him he is BELOVED.


    s (love the video)

  22. I feel so blissfully spoiled, following along with Sue on her travels and then coming here to read about the beautiful country you call home. I would so love to see all these things in person one day! It was fun to see you with Sue and Joe, especially at Sissinghurst! High drama with the bees! I'm glad you got it sorted out and have them settled back in. I'm also happy to know that your weather has improved! xoxo

  23. I am so enjoying your blog. Thank you for the sweet little videos too! Love the birdsong and have the snowfall saved - I live in the tropics now but originally from the north:) Came to you through Sue!

  24. Lovely blog! I followed you over from Susan Branch's blog and one I saw your purring, black kitty in the side bar, I knew I had to follow you!

  25. What a pleasure to meet you through Susan B.! You girls are having way too much fun - Well deserved and earned, I'd say! I've now bookmarked you, too, so I can enjoy your musings and talents, along with Susan's, each and every day. Thank you for shining your beautiful inner lights with us all! ~Kim

  26. Oh Rachel---again, your video is enchanting---a bit of your voice, too----Alice!!! Maybe if I call loud enough, she'll pay me a visit!!

  27. Oh my Rachel, I have come to visit from Susan's blog.. I know I am going to love getting to know you better. Susan only takes us the best places and introduces us to the coolest of folks!

  28. Victoria Lemon drops, lollipops and puddle ducks31 May 2012 at 10:34

    Dear Rachel,
    Hi, I am so happy to meet you! ... After Susan so beautifully introduced us to you, Paul and Alice, I just had to write to you... Any friend of Susan's is a friend of mine!
    I took a peak at your blog and I love it already! Love reading about the birds and the bees and seeing your beautiful pictures.... Just wish I could taste your brownies!

    I live in a suburb of a busy city and my dream is to have an English style cottage and a pond where I can take my dog, a big pillow and a cup of tea and a book and float in an old wooden boat under a willow tree and just listen to the sound of the birds and the bugs... That's heaven to me! England is just the place for that! You are so blessed to live in all that green beauty!
    I have always wanted to know someone that lives in England! .... I am so blessed to find you! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your wonderful life! Mozart too!

  29. Hasn't Susan done a fantastic job showing us through England? I know you were happy to meet them, then to have them come to visit with you. Frankly, I would LOVE to meet both YOU and Susan, but how to make that happen is beyond me!
    According to the official report from the Weather Service, this spring has been the warmest ever recorded, so the break we had in heat and humidity yesterday and today has been most refreshing. The a/c has actually been turned on for quite a number of weeks. The past two days, we have been able to have the doors open for the cool breeze.
    It is good to read your blog, Rachel, and I look forward to seeing what is going on in your life.


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